Alabama Law Institute Purpose
The purpose of the Institute is to clarify and simplify the laws of Alabama, to revise laws that are out-of-date and to fill in gaps in the law where there exists legal confusion.
Created by act of the Legislature in 1967, the Alabama Law Institute was funded and commenced operations in 1969. The Institute is housed in the Law Center Building on the University of Alabama Campus so as to have available the research facilities of the state's largest research law library which is essential to major law revision. It also enables the Institute to have immediate access to the legal experts in various fields under study as ready consultants. The Institute was placed in Alabama's state-sponsored law school not only as a cost-efficient measure but to remove it from the political influence of the State Capitol.
The Alabama Law Institute works closely with the Legislative Reference Service in the yearly placing of acts passed by the Legislature within the Code of Alabama for proper placement and codification. The Legislative Reference Service prepares the vast majority of bills for each session for the Legislature, however, major code revision work, such as revision of an entire section of law, as Alabama's Business Corporation law, Criminal Code, etc. are handled by the Alabama Law Institute.
The Law Institute receives its projects from members of the Legislature, state government, from the Bar or may initiate the study itself when revisions are needed.
Once a topic is selected, the Institute selects someone to serve as chief draftsman, who is called a reporter for the study. Experts in the field under revision, as well as Legislators are requested to serve on an advisory committee to prepare the proposed revision. Written commentaries accompany the proposed bill to assist the Legislator and those who will be interested in the revision. The Institute issues written drafts with commentaries to each Legislator. Many of these projects require intensive study over several years. This meticulous and proficient study provides a credible basis for the Legislature to consider the Code revision as being technically accurate. Once a revision is complete, hearings are held around the State for further consideration by the Council of the Alabama Law Institute.
The membership of the Alabama Law Institute is limited to a maximum of 150 members of the Alabama State Bar Association who are elected for fixed terms, the judges of the Alabama Supreme Court, courts of appeals, and circuit courts, federal judges domiciled in Alabama, full-time law faculty members of Cumberland Law School and the University of Alabama School of Law, all members of the Institute Council and all lawyer members of the Legislature, who are licensed to practice in Alabama. The governing body of the Institute is the Institute Council composed of six practicing attorneys from each congressional district as well as representatives from the appellate courts, Attorney General's office, Alabama State Bar Association, law schools, Legislature, and the Governor's office.
Legislators operate without a staff. They can receive assistance from the Alabama Law Institute. Law clerks and other experts can do an in-depth study of technical legal problems. This coordination of efforts meant that approximately $1,000,000 of donated legal talent was contributed during the seven years while the Criminal Code was being drafted and taught to lawyers, peace officers and court personnel. Like sums are prevalent in the preparation of all Law Institute revisions.
Each year, the chief draftsman receives a small stipend while all committee members volunteer their efforts. Wide exposure is given to all bills before they ever reach the Legislature. The drafts are placed on the internet and written drafts are prepared for review. Input is encouraged from all affected parties as well as the general public.
The Alabama Law Institute is basically a volunteer agency with a Director, Associate Director and secretaries who organize the volunteer efforts. Last year we assisted various committees working on law revision for the Legislature. Committee members rendered their service without compensation. Much of the drafting is performed by law professors, attorneys and judges at a very nominal cost. Extensive use is made of law students as law clerks.